23 March 2014

Betony is Stachys officinalis

Betony is more than reliable in my garden - it generously reseeds itself to the point that I pull out half or three fourths of the tiny plants every spring during cleanup. By March, the tiny plants are just a few leaves hugging the ground and are easy to remove as I'm taking off the leaves and last year's perennial stems for spring.

Betony is easy to get along with - it has no special soil requirements and will thrive in sun or part-shade down to zone 4 cold winters.

The flower spikes are at the top, then to both sides of an interrupted spike. The one in these photos spent the winter in the garden shed and is happily blooming and making buds.

You can usually get unwanted plants from friends at this time of year. Most of my thinnings become compost. Established plants can be divided in the spring and they can be started from seeds.

Many people use the leaves or the entire plant in many tea infusions and as herbal medicine, especially for headaches. The leaves are dried out of light like most herbs. See Rosewood Herbals for more medicinal information.

Some consider Betony to have magical properties that protect against harm so it is worn in amulets.

Herbs 2000 goes further into Betony's background, "The herb known as the wood betony is commonly considered to be the most important among the Anglo-Saxon herbs. There are at least twenty nine uses of the wood betony in the treatment of physical diseases. At one time, the wood betony was probably also the most popular amulet herb - such amulets were used widely until the middle Ages as a charm to ward off so called evil or ill humors that supposedly brought disease to the human body. The many uses of the wood betony were written down by the medical herbalist Gerard in 1597, he gave a long list of herbal applications for this plant, adding that -"it maketh a man to pisse well"- an inference to the herb's effectiveness against urinary disorders. Most contemporary herbalist neglect the wood betony as a potential remedy, however, the beneficial properties of this herb are worth rediscovering and exploiting."

I just love seeing it scattered around the flower and herb beds, those gorgeous purple-blue tubular flowers decorating every bed and complementing every color combination.

Before you sell your coat to buy plants as the Spanish proverb recommends, check your favorite native plant seed seller - a pack of seeds is only $1.75 at Cheryl Seed.

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